Sanitization - Cleaning Computer, Keyboard, Mouse



Disinfecting Computers, Keyboards and Mice




Cleaning surfaces that harbor microbes minimizes the transmission of disease. That includes surfaces touched by or exposed to contamination from humans. Computer keyboards and mice are prime culprits, especially if shared. People who suffer from colds or flu continue to shed the virus up to three days after symptoms disappear. Cold and flu viruses are known to survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.1


A 2004 study conducted by the University of Arizona found that keyboards and mice harbor 400 times as many microbes as toilet seats. In early 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that a 2007 flu outbreak in a U.S. elementary school was the result of shared keyboards.2




Computers, keyboards and mice should be cleaned immediately upon receipt of equipment.




The proper work environment, tools and supplies are critical to accomplishing the task. Prepare a work area and stock the supplies that will be needed.


Tools and Supplies


The following will be helpful in cleaning computers and computer devices.

Anti-bacterial wipes

Anti-static cloths

Anti-static wristband or other professional grounding device

Cotton swabs

Gloves, disposable

Lint-free cotton cleaning cloths

Microfiber cleaning cloths designed for camera lenses or LCD monitors

Small, soft artist’s paint brush

Alcohol, rubbing, or pre-packaged alcohol wipes

Bleach, household

Cleaning fluid made for electronic devices

Compressed air (but not a strong device that may damage delicate computer parts)

Glass cleaner


Work Area

              Wood or tile floor. Electronic devices should not be repaired on carpeted surfaces.

            Adequate work surface with task lighting

            Sink and access to water


Working Precautions


Cleaning electronic devices and parts requires additional precautions to avoid injury to the worker and to the components. It may be helpful to post reminders in the work area.

ü      All electronic devices must be unplugged.

ü      Electrical repairs should not be made while standing on carpeted surfaces.

ü      Gloves should be worn to handle and disinfect computer equipment.

ü      Liquids should never be sprayed directly onto computer parts. The cleaner should be sprayed onto a cloth, and then the cloth used to wipe the parts.

ü      Circuits and electronics should not be allowed to become damp or wet.

ü      Cleaners should be chosen carefully to avoid harm. 





When working with cleaning solutions, the cleaning cloth should be dampened, but not wet, and it should never be allowed to drip.


The CDC recommends cleaning keyboards and mice with a bleach solution to minimize the transmission of norovirus. This can be performed safely within the confines of an AT center or a home, but the use of bleach is prohibited in most schools. Antibacterial wipes may be used instead. They have been shown to reduce bacteria levels by 99 percent. Wipes designed for healthcare applications should be used, if possible. Readily available alcohol wipes also inhibit the spread of germs.


Computer case


The initial cleaning of the donated computer case (exterior housing) should be done with alcohol wipes or a bleach solution (see mixing instructions) to mitigate the potential spread of viruses. Care should be taken not to allow any liquid to drip into the case and cause damage to the internal components. The cleaned case should be permitted to air dry completely.


During routine use, a cloth dampened in plain water or water with a mild detergent will be adequate to keep the case clean.


If the case is removed to expose the internal components of the computer, extreme caution should be used. Dust can be removed with an anti-static cloth or a small, soft artist’s paintbrush.




Because of the design of working keyboards, liquid should not be permitted to drip into the device. Any significant amount of liquid will make a keyboard inoperable. If a bleach solution is being used, a clean cloth should be dampened and all liquid wring out. The dampened cloth can be used to clean the surfaces and all sides of the keys. An alcohol or anti-bacterial wipe may be used instead.


For ordinary dusting after the keyboard has been sanitized, a soft paintbrush may be used between keys. Compressed air containers designed for this purpose may also be used.


Washable keyboards for users at high risk. Several companies now manufacture washable keyboards – the kind that can tolerate saturation with cleaning liquids and rinsing under a tap. These may be appropriate for clients who suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses that make them extremely vulnerable to bacteria or virus transmission. These devices are slightly more expensive than normal keyboards, but not prohibitive. Sources are easily located on the Internet.




Roller or trackball mouse. The exterior may be cleaned with an alcohol or anti-bacterial wipe. To clean inside, the back cover must be unlocked and the ball removed. Dust and loose particles are easily removed with a soft brush. The rollers that hold the trackball in place can be cleaned by using a cotton swab with a drop of alcohol. Care should be taken not to damage the rollers when removing the "gunk" that collects on them. The trackball and cover should be replaced when the cleaning is complete.


Laser or optical mouse. The top should be wiped carefully with an alcohol or anti-bacterial wipe. The bottom can be wiped with a clean, lint-free cotton cloth. Compressed air (from a can) may be used to remove dust from the lens area.




The cases around the screens should be wiped very carefully with alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes, taking care not to allow liquid to intrude into the case.


CRT monitors have screens made of glass with no special coatings. They can be cleaned with glass cleaner or water. Liquid should not be sprayed onto the screen. It might run down inside the case and cause damage. Instead, a clean, lint-free cloth may be sprayed and used to clean the screen.


LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors are usually not covered with glass, but with a form of plastic. The surface should be cleaned with extreme care following the manufacturer’s instructions or using a microfiber cleaning cloth designed for camera lenses or LCD displays. Paper towels should not be used because they may scratch the display surface.


USB connectors and ports


These parts tend to collect dust. Compressed air or an anti-static cloth should be used to remove dust from the area.



1 “Lifting the Lid on computer filth,” BBC News. Retrieved January 4, 2008, from

2 Reinberg, Steven. “Stomach Flu Spread by Contaminated Computer Keyboards.” Health Day News. Retrieved February 26, 2008, from









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This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.


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Title: Sanitization - Cleaning Computer, Keyboard, Mouse
Module: Program Operations
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It On Center
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 6:16 PM